If Slate doesn’t soon have a contrarian take praising Geraldo Rivera for saying, “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,” the Internet is useless. Kidding! We all know the Internet is useless. Except if you want to make fun of Geraldo Rivera for saying something as mind-bogglingly stupid as “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.”
Erik Wemple wrote this morning that Rivera’s quote “has to be another Internet hoax.”
No adult on the country’s leading cable news outfit would blame the fashion choices of black and Latino kids for violence against them. Someone really clever had to have messed with the audio on that clip.
Wemple followed with another post a few hours later called “Geraldo’s hoodie comments: Definitely not a hoax.” Wemple listened to a radio show in which, he says, Rivera “octupled down on the hoodie blaming.”
Elana Zak put together a very useful Storify for anyone who started seeing the name “Geraldo” pop up in the news and simply figured the Millennium Bug had come 12 years late. From it, you can watch Geraldo’s original video, read a column-length version of his thoughts on how people who aren’t white should and shouldn’t dress and learn that the Atlantic Wire quickly found, via MediaBistro, a picture of Geraldo Rivera wearing a hoodie.
To be fair, that’s not really Rivera’s point: He says in his column that even though it’s not fair, “No one black, brown or white can honestly tell me that seeing a kid of color with a hood pulled over his head doesn’t generate a certain reaction, sometimes scorn, often menace.” The problem with this logic is that anything that becomes fashionable among black and Latin kids is inevitably seen as menacing, be it long white T-shirts, saggy pants or, when I was a kid, dookie chains.
In a fine piece earlier this week, my colleague Mallary Tenore wrote about some of the codes used to describe Trayvon Martin, hoodies among them.
When deciding whether to describe criminals as wearing a hooded sweatshirt, journalists should question how much this description will add to a story. Does it reveal something important about the suspect? Would you be as inclined to say the criminal was wearing a white T-shirt, a blue Polo shirt, a corduroy jacket? Would you be inclined to mention the hoodie if the suspect were Caucasian?